By DALE GRAHAM
Local firefighters were put to the test on Saturday, February 1st when the Pegram Valu-Plus grocery store went up in flames.
The store was open for business when the owner, Danny Patel saw smoke and cleared shoppers out. The smoke appeared to be coming from the back of the building. The fire caught quickly and a massive fire spread throughout the store. Pegram Fire Chief Brent Stuart called it, “Probably one of the biggest fires in the history of Pegram”, and was very proud of the efforts of the firefighters who came from all over the area to assist: Kingston Springs Fire Department, Kingston Springs Police Department, Ashland City Fire Department, Two Rivers Fire Department, Fairview Fire Department, Metro/Nashville Fire Department, Williamson Co. Rescue Squad, Cheatham County EMS, and Cheatham County Sheriff’s Department. “If it weren’t for all these agencies and all the men and women that make them up (the majority of these being volunteers), the outcome would have been much worse”, Stuart added. “We knocked the fire down and kept it from going through the rest of the place. It was a heck of a fire”, he said.
Kingston Springs Chief Bubba Ivey also was pleased with the way all of the different units worked together. “Everybody worked real well together”, he said, “everybody went home safe and that’s the main thing”.
The grocery store is in the middle of a 60 year old building that is home to Harmony House Publishing, The Way Community Center, a real estate office and other businesses. For the most part, the fire was contained to the grocery store. “We were blessed that we didn’t have any more damage than we did”, said Billy Stevens who owns Harmony House and the other part of the building to the right of the grocery store. “Most of the inside damage was smoke that can be cleaned up. We should be back in business with the digital printing within a week or so. It will probably be about a month before we can get the offset printing going again”, he added.
The store is an important resource to Pegram residents, not only for the food and items made available there, but because of the sales tax it brings to the town that has no property tax. Rupal Patel, the daughter of Danny Patel, owner of the Pegram Valu Plus, said it will take time before anyone knows what will become of the structure, which is owned by Janice Pendergrass (from the grocery store to the left). Pendergrass said on Wednesday, “At present, I am gathering information to assist with making major decisions. This fire was something I never anticipated and it will take time, information, and considerable deep thought to determine the next step. I’m trying to explore my options before jumping into anything.” The fire is still under investigation, and that and insurance adjusters take time.
Rupal said that the outreach from the community has been wonderful. “We see them every day, they’re heartbroken and they want to do something”, she said. She added a big thanks to everyone for “all the hugs that they provided us”, and offers of help. She also wanted to thank the firefighters and responders for the job they did to contain the fire.
There have been several fires recently in fact. There was a brush fire on the 27th. On January 29th the home of Earl Johnson on Cedar Hill Rd. burned to the ground. There have been several more brush fires recently including one that Chief Stuart was on his way to help KSFD with on Parker Rd. when the call came out about the Pegram Valu Plus. Another one broke out on the end of Narrows of the Harpeth Rd. and burned over to Leatherwood. Both fires were started as illegal controlled burns, (without permits during a ban on burning) that got out of hand. “Forestry is dealing with that”, Chief Bubba Ivey said. Ivey agreed that there have been a lot of fires lately. An outbuilding burned on Walnut off of Hillcrest, “we’ve had 2 chimney fires and 3 working structure fires in the past 10 days,” Ivey said. He added that 1 or 2 working structure fires per year is the norm.
“There have been a lot of fires lately, very unusual”, he said, but so far not suspicious. Ivey stated that the important take away from this is the importance of a few basic things. Burn Permits are required by State Forestry through May 15, 2014. You may get them online at www.burnsafetn.org or by calling 1-877-350-2876. There is no charge for the permit. If there is a burn ban ongoing you will find that out there as well. He also wanted to remind everyone of “the importance of getting your chimney inspected and cleaned because everyone is burning much more often because of the extremely cold temperatures”.